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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

SCRIPT No. 457, April 8, 2006

1830s, Here We Come


December of 1829 had been an unusually warm month; the following month remained so for a while. New York harbor remained free of ice. Visitor James Stuart was able to make quite a few visits to Manhattan from his boarding house in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he and his wife were staying.

Quite often his fellow passengers aboard the Stevens family steamboats were males; men did most of the marketing in the shops and stalls of Manhattan, returning later in the day with their produce and meats. Stuart had heard that even U. S. Chief Justice John Marshall, who occupied his residence on Staten Island when the Supreme Court was not in session, was often seen returning home with his dinner tucked under his arm, even the occasional turkey.

Most New Yorkers ate quite well. Stuart went to meet some friends for dinner once at a Manhattan boarding house. His shoes got dusty on the trip over; he stopped at a boot black’s house on Leonard Street for a polish, and found the man and his wife, “persons of colour”as he described them, “at dinner, consisting of one of the fattest roast geese I had ever seen, with potatoes, and apple-pie.”

In the several months they spent in Hoboken, many Sundays would find the Stuarts attending divine services in Manhattan. He mentions attending services at Episcopal, Presbyterian, Reformed Presbyterian, Baptist and Roman Catholic churches, as well as at several Methodist meetings. He found the various ministers to be equally impressive in their abilities. He was a little surprised when, turning up at the Oliver Street Baptist Church to hear the Reverend Spencer Wallace Cone, to find that he really had to hunt to find a vacant seat. “. . . the tide of Mr Cone's popularity was so great when I heard him, that the regular sitters were in some degree tenacious of their rights.”

It’s not too surprising that Cone was a popular preacher. The Princeton, New Jersey, native, had become an actor, much to the dismay of his devout mother, when he turned twenty. It may have been his presence during a fire that killed 72 people at the Richmond Theatre in the Virginia capital in 1811, including the state’s new governor, that made him decide to leave the stage. Afterwards, during a stint as a newspaper editor and writer, he was inspired by the biography of English divine John Newton to enter the Baptist church. Commanding a rifle company in the War of 1812, during which he witnessed the burning of Washington and the attack on Fort McHenry, he then moved to the nation’s capital. After preaching in the Washington and Philadelphia areas he moved to New York City in 1823 to take up the pastorate at the Baptist Church. Certainly Cone had a wealth of experiences to draw on, and by the time Stuart heard him, knew well how to work up a crowd.

The Stuarts must have done a bit of clothes shopping while they were in the area, probably in expectation of being on the road before long. He notes that most of the work in the fashion trade is done by women, apparently as opposed to the custom in Britain. The visiting couple may also have been refurbishing their outfits for the New Year’s celebrations to come at the end of the month. Well before Times Square was imagined.

© 2006 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


English actor Joseph Jefferson makes his New York City debut in The Provoked Husband.    **    New York City's council solicits bids for a municipal water system, receives two. Nothing is done.

Mar 26                 
Matthew Clarkson, Thomas Eddy, John Murray, Jr., Isaac Sloatenburgh, and John Watts, are authorized by the state of New York to build a state prison on newly-acquired property on Greenwich Street in New York City, to be known as Newgate.

The New York City owner of a Barclay Street building destroyed by fire this month starts a public subscription drive for financial aid in recouping his losses.

A warehouse fire in lower Manhattan spreads northward from Wall Street, destroying close to 70 buildings between there and Maiden Lane, and costing $1,000,000. Water from the Tea Pump is used in fighting the blaze.    **    New York City's council once again solicits bids for a municipal water system, receives two (one from Westchester doctor Joseph Browne), both of which die in committee.

Dec 6                 
Leather dresser William Thomson, son-in-law of the Hardenbrook family, who took over the Collect property in lower Manhattan a few days ago, advertises in the New York Minerva promoting his tea water pump business on the property and countering some bad publicity.

Some black members of the John Street Church ask Bishop Francis Asbury to conduct separate services for them. He creates the African Chapel  (later the Zion A. M. E. Church) under the jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church.    **    The council rejects a state offer to purchase the site of the former Colles Water Works for a prison, turns the land into a dump for street waste.    **    Yellow fever kills several dozen people.    **    John Fitch tests his screw-propeller steamboat on New York City's Collect
 Pond. Passengers include Robert Fulton, Chancellor R. Livingston, passenger and inventor Nicholas Roosevelt, and young John Hutchings, who acts as steersman. John Stevens also experiments with steam on the pond.    **    The city attempts to get property owners around The Collect to agree to a canal to drain the pond. Nothing happens.    **    A steeple is added to St. Paul's Chapel.    **    The approximate date Benjamin Davis erects the Broadway House tavern on Broadway at Grand Street.     **    James Blackwell erects a clapboard farmhouse on Blackwell’s Island (formerly Varckens Eylandt, or Hog Island; later Welfare, then Roosevelt Island).    **    John Rogers buys four acres of the former Warren estate in lower Manhattan. The property will become the site of the first house to be built on Washington Square North (No. 20) in 1828 and 1829.

©  2013         David Minor         Eagles Byte